Damian Lewis On The Conflicts And Complexities Of 'Homeland' : Monkey See Damian Lewis is a newly minted Emmy winner for his role as Nicholas Brody on Showtime's tense spy thriller Homeland.
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Damian Lewis On The Conflicts And Complexities Of 'Homeland'

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Damian Lewis On The Conflicts And Complexities Of 'Homeland'

Damian Lewis On The Conflicts And Complexities Of 'Homeland'

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Showtime's "Homeland" swept the Emmy awards earlier this week, winning the trophies for Best Drama, Best Writing, Best Actress for Claire Danes, and Best Actor for Damian Lewis, a British star who's becoming known for playing stoic, iconic, American men of arms.


DAMIAN LEWIS: (as Nicholas Brody) My name is Nicholas Brody, and I'm a sergeant in the United States Marine Corps. By the time you've watched this, you'll have read a lot of things about me, about what I've done.

SIMON: Damian Lewis joins us from our studios in New York. Thanks so much for being with us.

LEWIS: Greetings. Thanks you for inviting me.

SIMON: Without giving away any plot points, what's going on inside Nicholas Brody?

LEWIS: Well, it's a good question. I think Nicholas Brody is an abuse victim, simultaneously abused and loved by a man who is a mentor figure in his life, who's responsible for torturing him and who is responsible for offering him some salvation as well.

SIMON: We'll explain for people who may not be familiar with this series that Sergeant Brody was held prisoner by al-Qaida for eight years. By the way, it's congressman Brody as season two opens. We've got a clip here with Brody at work. His mentor figure, Abu Nazir, has sent an intermediary to Brody's office with instructions for future operations. The intermediary's played by Zuleikha Robinson.


LEWIS: (as Nicholas Brody) I told Nazir I would influence lawmakers through my access. That is what I'm doing and that is what we agreed to.

ZULEIKHA ROBINSON: (as journalist) I know what you agreed to.

LEWIS: (as Nicholas Brody)I am not a terrorist.

ROBINSON: (as journalist)There's a difference between terrorism and a justifiable act of retaliation.

LEWIS: (as Nicholas Brody)I will not help you in the killing of innocent civilians.

I think Nicholas Brody's made unstable by that relationship, and so he's a confused soul. While his impulses might be defendable, his action is not. So, there's a lot going on with Brody. But I try to ground him in what's essentially an abusive relationship with this father figure.

SIMON: There's a CIA agent played by Claire Danes, who's kind of sniffed out the fact that he's supporting terrorist plots, but the problem is her perceptions are suspect. Did I get that right more or less?

LEWIS: Yeah, you've got it. You know, it's a series of plays with perceptions. Claire's character, Carrie, is brilliant, maverick, dynamic, intuitive, but is also driven to a point of, I suppose you might say, selfishness and the obsessiveness. And sometimes it's hard to like but represents the hope for security.

SIMON: How do you account for the fact that you've been cast, at this point in your life, between two seasons on NBC's "Life," where you played a police officer framed for murder, and, of course, "Band of Brothers," where you played World War II U.S. soldier, how do you account for the fact that you played so many American cops and soldiers?

LEWIS: Well, I think it's a ghastly accident. I think the casting of "Band of Brothers" was instrumental in the whole thing, obviously. And I think the reason I landed "Band of Brothers" is that perhaps because he was a World War II hero, because there was something slightly old-fashioned about Dick Winters and because young British actors might present themselves in a different way, in a more straight-backed way, if you like, in a less-hip street kind of way. I'm slightly grasping for ideas here. But it's been suggested to me that that might be a reason, and that seems like a good reason that a young British actor has something rather more old-fashioned about him still. But, yes, it's been fun. It's been a bit of an imposition. I apologize for that. But it's been fantastic.

SIMON: Mr. Lewis, could you sell me a car alarm?

LEWIS: Not anymore.

SIMON: But you used to do that, though, right?

LEWIS: I used to be, yeah. Not a happy period in my life. And I remember going to work with one of those enormous brick-like Walkmans that we all used to have, you know. And I would get on the tube, go to work and try and sell car alarms - Simba, Simba car alarm systems I used to say down the phone. Hello, sir. Do you have a car alarm? I wasn't very good at it.

SIMON: I was struck by something you quoted as saying in the L.A. Times that Claire Danes's character, Carrie Mathison, who I guess has been diagnosed as bipolar, reflects our country's deep political, economic and cultural divisions. What does Brody represent?

LEWIS: I think Brody, I think he's the strongest political message in the series, actually. I don't want to overstate, you know, the political themes because it is, at the end of the day, you know, a sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat thriller. But I think Brody does represent a picture of a young man - he is a picture of a young man who is victimized, who is damaged brutally by war and therefore he is a comment on war and what we risk by sending young men to war.

SIMON: May I ask, do you know how it all turns out?

LEWIS: I do. I can tell you, by way of a little bit of gossip and a bit of a teaser, that things had to change dramatically in the middle of the season. The writers often don't know entirely what the arch of the season is going to be. And they were pedaling furiously, I think, in the middle of the season to change the second half of the season. So, just to give an example of the spontaneity of the writing room, but I don't think the end of season two has suffered. I think it's very compelling.

SIMON: Damian Lewis, he Emmy Award-winning actor who plays Sergeant - now congressman - Nicholas Brody on the Showtime series "Homeland." The show's second season begins tomorrow night. Thanks so much.

LEWIS: Thank you. Very much.

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